Digitization and its Impact on Journalism

Today I am glad to present to you a guest post by Dr. André Haller. He is a researcher and lecturer at the Institute of Communication Science at University of Bamberg (Germany). His fields of research are: Political Communication, Scandals and Media, Litigation PR and New Developments in Journalism. At the Summer School Haller and his colleague Holger Müller (who is also researching and teaching in Bamberg) gave a lecture with the title “Big Data – The last resort for local newspapers?”.  

Much has been written on the issue of digitization and its consequences on journalism. Most works deal with the internet and the transformation of classic journalism into new forms of online communication. Adrian Holovaty identified and described two steps in the old fashioned journalism: The collection of information and the production of newspaper stories for newspaper websites (cf. Holovaty 2006). But as he reasoned in 2006 on his website: “The problem is […], for many types of news and information, newspaper stories don’t cut anymore” (ibid.).

Holger Müller and I presented a possible chance for classic journalism to persist and succeed in the era of digitization: Data Journalism or Data Driven Journalism. The title of our presentation was “Big Data – The last resort for local newspapers?”. We showed a cooperation project of the Institute of Communication Science at University of Bamberg and the local media organization “Fränkischer Tag” which publishes several newspapers in the area of Upper Franconia in the German Bundesland Bavaria.

Our lecture was based on the theoretical assumptions by Paul Bradshaw who introduced the “inverted pyramid of data journalism” (Bradshaw 2011a). The pyramid consists of five steps which describe the collection and editing of data which can be used for a journalist’s work:

Facebook-App for the “Raider of the Dead Spot” (Haller / Müller 2013)

(1) Compile (cf. ibid.): That means, a journalist either “have a question that needs data or a dataset that needs questioning” (ibid.). In our data journalism project we want to find dead spots in mobile reception in the area of Bamberg. The project is named “Raider of the Dead Spot” and aims mainly on younger recipients. The question is therefore: “How good is your mobile phone reception?”. We therefore use a Facebook-App in which the users can report a deadspot by clicking on a few items (see figure).

(2) Clean (cf. ibid.): In this step the journalist’s task is to question the gathered data. We’ll have to check the plausibility of the data set and also compare the data which is provided by the phone provider.

(3) Context (cf. ibid.): We then have to look for stories which arise from the data. Possible contexts in the debate on mobile dead spots in Germany could be: Protests against mobile phone masts and the development of the population in rural areas.

(4) Combine (cf. ibid.): In the last step of the data research the journalists have to combine further data with the data set from the Facebook-App. The first task is to merge the statistics with geodata to see where the most dead spots are located.

(5) Communicate (cf. ibid / Bradshaw 2011b): When the work on the data is mostly finished, journalists have to communicate to the audience. Bradshaw therefore defines the following steps: Visualize, narrate, socialize, humanize, personalize and utilize (cf. Bradshaw 2011b).

The visualization will be made by charts, tables and maps. It is planned to produce maps for the printed edition of the newspaper, for its website and for the Facebook-App. In the narration, journalists want to explain the data set to the readers of the newspaper “Fränkischer Tag”. Data Journalism needs also to be responsive so the makers have to socialize the collected information. That means, users should have the chance to take part in the journalistic work. In the step of humanization, we want to show how the problem of dead spots is connected to some citizens of Bamberg, for example rescue teams. This is connected to the personalization of our story: The journalist’s task is to show each reader why the project has some importance for his or her everyday life. “Utilize” means that the Facebook-App is user friendly and that the infrastructure could be used for further Data Journalism projects.

The project starts in the end of 2013. As we stated in our lecture, it is some kind of an experiment for Data Driven Journalism in the local news. In Germany, mainly bigger media organizations use Data Journalism as an instrument to combine multiple forms of communication. Hence, we are curious about the outcomes of the “Raiders of the Dead Spots”-project and are going to present the main results of the cooperation when the work is done.

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Literature

Bradshaw, Paul (2011a): The inverted pyramid of data journalism. Hg. v. Online Journalism Blog, last update on 07.07.2011, last checked on 08.05.2013.

Bradshaw, Paul (2011b): 6 ways of communicating data journalism (The inverted pyramid of data journalism part 2). Hg. v. Online Journalism Blog, last update on 13.07.2013, last checked on 08.05.2013.

Holovaty, Adrian (2006): A fundamental way newspaper sites need to change, last update on 06.09.2006, last checked on 03.06.2013.

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